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Nearly 10 Years After The Mumbai Terror Attacks, Maritime Security Has Improved


The Indian city of Mumbai marks a grim anniversary next week. It's been 10 years since terrorists launched a four-day attack that left more than 160 people dead. The events played out on live TV around the world. The terrorists struck five-star hotels, a busy train station, a hospital and a Jewish Community Center.

The attacks changed Mumbai, and they changed the way cities around the world protect civilian targets. NPR's Lauren Frayer reports.


LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Mohamed Taufiq Sheikh still runs a sidewalk tea stall outside Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji train station. Ten years ago, he was inside the station when shots rang out.


FRAYER: He says he thought it was celebratory fireworks after a cricket match. Then, he saw a bullet shatter a ticket window. He turned to see where it came from.

TAUFIQ: (Through interpreter) I came face-to-face with the gunman. I remember a detail - his cargo pants with six pockets. He also had two guns, a big one and a small one.

FRAYER: They locked eyes for a second. It was Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani militant and the only attacker to survive. India convicted and hanged him four years later. It still holds Pakistan responsible.

That day, as Kasab fled the train station, Taufiq, the tea seller, wheeled victims in a cart to a hospital around the corner. A mile and a half away, terrorists were going room to room in two luxury hotels.


UNIDENTIFIED BROADCASTER: All right, our breaking news coverage continues out of Mumbai, India, and the deadly coordinated terror attacks there from the scene of the ambushed Taj Hotel.

PRAKASH VASWANI: We could see on TV inside what is happening outside.

FRAYER: Dr. Prakash Vaswani was inside the Taj Hotel visiting a patient there. He got trapped in her hotel room for 24 hours. And when he took that elevator down to the hotel lobby.

VASWANI: When I just came out of the lift, I saw everybody dead. There was nobody - not a single soul alive in the lobby.

FRAYER: Except for a gunman and one waiter, who pushed Vaswani behind a pillar and took a bullet instead.


FRAYER: The heroes of the Mumbai attacks are memorialized on plaques across the city and here on Marine Drive. This is one of Mumbai's busiest seaside thoroughfares. Between a cricket field and the water, there are 18 pillars for 18 police officers who lost their lives.

But this is also where the terrorists landed. They arrived by sea from Pakistan, hijacked fishing boats and slid into a port a couple hundred yards from here at Mumbai's southern tip.

DHANUSHKODI SIVANANDHAN: Maritime security has been increased a thousand-fold.

FRAYER: D. Sivanandhan became Mumbai's police commissioner just after the attacks. He's since retired from the force. He deployed bulletproof police boats along Mumbai's coast, embedded quick response teams across the city and updated police weapons. Back in 2008, they were still using World War II-era rifles.

The cinematic horror of what happened in Mumbai made hotels, theaters, shopping malls around the world ramp up security, says Sivanandhan.

SIVANANDHAN: The metal detector industry and various other things have boomed, you know? Like anything, it has become a multibillion-dollar business.

VASWANI: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: Back at his clinic just blocks from the Taj Hotel, Dr. Vaswani says his priorities have changed.

VASWANI: It's changed my life now. I was practicing till late hours at night. Now I am not practicing till late hours at night. As early as possible, I wind up and finish my work and reach home, spending more time with family now.

FRAYER: He considers November 26, the day of his survival, his new birthday.

Lauren Frayer, NPR News, Mumbai.


Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.